Your nose is runny, your eyes are itchy, and you can’t stop sneezing. Do you have a cold, or is it allergies? The two conditions are so similar that they are sometimes indistinguishable, but here is a quick run-down to help you sort out the differences:
Runny Nose: A runny or stuffy nose is the most common symptom of both allergies and the common cold. There is a difference, though. The mucus produced during a cold is usually thick and yellow, while the mucus produced from allergies is most often thin and clear.
Cough: A persistent, and usually productive, cough is a common cold symptom. This may begin and end as just an uncomfortable “tickle.” Some people experience a dry cough as part of their allergy symptoms.
Sore Throat: Sore throats are a common cold symptom, but they occasionally accompany allergies, too.
Aches: Sore, achy muscles and joints are sometimes a symptom of the common cold, but not allergies.
Fatigue: Both the common cold and allergies may result in a feeling of fatigue.
Fever: More commonly associated with the flu, a fever is rarely present with a cold, and never with allergies.
Itchy Eyes: Red, itchy, watery, painful eyes are a telltale sign of allergies. This symptom is rarely seen with colds.
Timing: Colds can happen at any time of the year, but are most common during the winter. Allergies can also happen at any time of the year, depending on what you are allergic to. The most common allergens, such as pollen and ragweed, appear during the spring or fall.
Onset: Cold symptoms begin to appear within a few days after a person is infected with a cold virus. Allergy symptoms usually begin as soon as a person is exposed to their allergen.
Duration: Colds can last anywhere from three days to two weeks, depending on the strain, your overall health when infected, how much rest and fluids you get at the start of the cold, and a number of other factors. Allergies last for as long as you are exposed to a particular allergen, which can be anywhere from a couple of days to several months.
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